[ By Lt General (Retd) P.C. Katoch ]
With the issue of the expression of interest (EoI) for the BMS on November 11, 2013, the Battle Management System (BMS) has finally taken another step. It may be noted that after the BMS was cleared by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) as ‘make India’ project two years back and following the ordering of the Integrated Project Management Team (IPMT) Study by the DG Acquisition of Ministry of Defence (MoD), it was estimated that the EoI will be issued by October 2012. This year itself the EoI had been pending with the Department of Defence Production for several weeks and as per revised estimates was to be issued by August 2013. However, the deliberations have taken yet another few months.
The EoIs will be sent to the Bharat Electronics Limited, Electronics Corporation of India, Computer Maintenance Corporation, ITI, domestic private-sector major Tata Power SED, Rolta India, Wipro, Larsen & Toubro, HCL, Punj Lloyd, Bharat Forge, Tata Consultancy, Info Systems and Tech Mahindra. While only domestic defence companies will be allowed to compete for BMS, these companies will forge ties with overseas defence majors to acquire advanced technologies. It is now for the industry to take up the challenge.
The BMS will provide the Indian Army an integration tool supporting every level of military users ranging from individual soldier to battalion group/combat group commander in the tactical battle area (TBA) displaying in near real time an appropriate, common and comprehensive tactical picture by integrating inputs from all elements of the battle group. It will be possible to pick up the enemy much before he picks you up, see the target and fire direct in quick time using the best weaponry available, as also monitor the after effects. As such, fielding of the BMS will be an important facet of capability building in the Indian Army.
The mission capabilities being looked at are: provide a command and control system spanning the TBA spreading across individuals, detachments, combat platforms, sensors, sub-units, units to the battalion commander/regiment commander; achieve faster reaction capability and flexibility in command and control by providing information automatically at the right place in the right time, thereby compressing observe, orient, decide, and act (OODA) loop; provide a strong foundation for making decisions based on near real time, consistent and well-structured information, thereby enhancing the information handling capability of commanders at all levels; strengthen information exchange by having a strong messaging and replication mechanism; improve and modernise presentation of information in near real time, and; integrate with other command and control system.
The BMS will comprise a tactical hand held computer with indi- vidual soldiers and tactical computers at Battle Group Headquarters and combat vehicles. The computers will be integrated employing application and database servers connected on a data enabled communication network. The system will enable generation of common operational picture by integrating inputs from all relevant sources within a battle group by integrated use of geographic information system (GIS) and global positioning system (GPS). the BMS will be a highly mobile system which is able to network itself by integration of components and provide a high data rate.
The communications should not interfere with the legacy communication equipment and should easily be retrofitted into combat platform. The communications system should optimally utilise the bandwidth available for military communications involving voice and data including video streaming and imageries. It should be scalable to ensure its availability to all elements and range from being man-portable to being fitted in combat vehicles. With issue of the EoI, it should now be possible to shortlist two Developing Agencies (DA) by after 12 months or so; November 2014. Subsequently, design phase could commence by March 2015, limited prototype tested in laboratory by December 2015 and finally, prototypes developed and fielded for user evaluation by December 2016 (instead of earlier schedule of 2012). The cascading effect has already delayed completion of Phase 2 (Equipping) from initial plan of 2017 to 2021 and Phase 3 (Change Management and Upgradation of System) from 2022 to 2026 as per current status. This will schedule is possible only if there are no more hurdles.
The BMS is a finance intensive project and exact financial implication can only be holistically worked out at the end of Phase I. The approximate cost of Phase I of the system was earlier estimated to be around ` 350 crore, which may now double up. Considering the BMS will be fielded pan Army at the battalion/regiment level, the overall requirement will be colossal – likely to jump from the initial estimates of a modest ` 23,000 crore to the region of ` 80,000 crore or even more. More importantly, similar system will eventually be required other forces of the security sector (paramilitary units, central armed police units and special police units) tasked for anti-terrorist and counter-insurgency operations.
The prototype should be a suitable application on an intuitive operating system with customised GIS suitability. Voice and data communications must be always up. Computer hardware should be rugged and non-obtrusive with retrofitment maintaining platform integrity. System integration should include application software, data links with radio systems, integration of battalion/regiment level sensors BFSR, Thermal Imagers, UAV/ MAV data, satellite imagery etc. Considering that almost 90 per cent of required technology is already available in the market, emphasis should be on customisation to meet army requirements.